Have you ever felt like you need to be in two worlds, two places, or to think about two concepts at the same time? In today’s world, I know a lot of us experience being torn between multiple responsibilities. Multi-tasking is a way of life for most of us. It’s difficult to be fully invested in anything if you don’t feel grounded in the task of the moment, though. Needing to shift between tasks can be challenging. Obviously, this applies to many roles in our lives (employee, wife, friend…), but specifically for artists I think it can be challenging to switch mindsets and heart. Oh yes, my heart and soul is part of everything I do as an artist/writer, as you probably know by reading my past blogs. I think most artists feel the same way.
Specifically for my writing (since this is a behind the scenes blog of my author life!), I’ve noticed I work best when totally ingrained in the world of my story. I need to be inside the minds of the characters I am writing. I need to be imaging myself in their shoes, walking around in their setting I created. I can feel them with the emotions of the narrative and scenes. This is simply how I work. I see the story and the characters in my mind’s eye, mostly from the main character’s perspective, but I also have to get into the supporting character’s minds when writing their dialogue of course.
When writing my first novel, The Difference, I had a different luxury than currently; I could focus on one story. Don’t get me wrong I’m ecstatic for the opportunity to be able to have a writing career, but it takes a mind shift for a writer who works from total emotional investment. See, now I also need to keep moving forward with other stories I want to tell you as my readers. So I need to go back and forth between my novel I’ve worked on for years (for editing) and a new novel I am writing. It’s an incredible blessing but can be challenging. I tried to wait until edits were completely finished for my first novel before starting this WIP (work in progress), but I couldn’t wait any longer. The story was nagging at me to be told. Writers, you feel me on this, right? So now I’m officially living in two imaginary worlds. This picture of me at the Prime Meridian line shows how I feel sometimes, with each foot in a world I created.
When I sat down to write my new story for the first time, I almost felt like I was cheating on Rachel, my main character in The Difference. Speaking as Mary in my current WIP took a little getting used to. Although I had her mapped out as a character on paper, to speak like her in my writing required me to keep viewing all the details I set out for myself on paper. I heard Rachel’s voice popping through a few times, but kept redirecting my thoughts to Mary. I had to essentially keep repeating “I’m speaking as Mary now. Mary, Mary, Mary!” I know this may sound confusing (because it is), but this is how it went for me. And I’m only involved in two manuscripts! How some authors can work on more than that at a time is beyond me. But anyway, what happens to me when I write these novels is that I feel I get in a state of flow, and this is helping me to stay in the world I need to be in at the moment. Have you heard the term flow?
Flow state was developed by the positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and he described it as being “in the zone.” He said in a TED Talk that “There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity… [and] a sense of time disappears.” Friends, this is the magic part. This happens to me every time I’m writing fiction. I am a Type A person, but when in an artistic process, the rules and rigidity float away, and my concentration is at its height, yet is effortless. Before I know it, I have 1,000 words on the page. Flow state is where my best art comes from.
Now, I want to know if you have felt the flow state. I think it requires a few points to reach it, so if you haven’t felt it yet, maybe I can help with how I think it happens for me.
- First, are you doing something you love? This is required, people, required. It has to be an activity that brings you joy, peace, and excitement. Remember, these thoughts are from my perspective so you may disagree.
- Second, try to eliminate distracting noise. Can you have on music? Sure, if that is what you love to work with, but if you need silence, make that happen. I know it can be hard when you have others in your home, so it may take some negotiation or deal making for your needs.
- Third, make sure you have a large chunk of time. I would say at least an hour, minimal. For me, it takes a little while to transition from the normal thinking to the creative thinking to the flow state. I view it as a meditative state in a way. So I need to allow time for the transition of total alertness to outside noise (typically beta state) down to more of an internally alert state (typically alpha state). Remember I am also a therapist, so I know this stuff, lol.
- Fourth, go to it! Do your thing. Just let it…wait for it…flow. It will come if you are open to it. Just be. Be in the moment.
There you have it. Now we can all be in our own little worlds and never be present again. Um, just kidding. But we can be in our different creative zones and be in the flow state when we engage in our art. How exciting, right?
As I continue to work on my WIP, I have been leaving Rachel’s story in the back of my mind a little bit. I’m not releasing her or it, but just holding the story differently. Believe me, when I play writer games on Twitter (which is what we do in the #writingcommunity) and am asked to talk about my WIP, it’s the strangest feeling for me not to be talking about my first book. The moment I started referring to my new manuscript was jolting. Again, the cheating on Rachel! But I’ll be talking about The Difference the rest of my life, since that is what happens when you write and promote a book (especially so meaningful as my first published book). It’s okay that this new world of Mary’s is calling. And I have to tell you, being in the flow state again feels amazing. I haven’t experienced that in a while with writing because editing doesn’t allow that state for me (it uses more of my logical brain).
So, being in the two worlds is working out okay! Strange at first, but I am getting used to it. And as I dive into my different worlds of creation, I’m constantly thinking of more stories. One has been speaking a little more to me and may turn into a short story. I’ve never done that, and it may be fun to try. But, oh no, that’s a third split for me! I guess I’ll know I can handle it now. I look forward to the differences in character views, settings, and possibly the most enjoyable part…the flow. Immersing in multiple worlds isn’t so bad after all.
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